By Michael Pascoe

Early this morning the French rugby team
walloped England 31-6
to give notice that the All Blacks certainly won’t be the only team to
beat at
next year’s World Cup played on French soil. And remember Tana Umaga’s
quip that New Zealand has perfected peaking between World Cups.

In the three tries to zip thrashing, the French also put their hands on the Six
Nations trophy but can’t lift it until after next weekend’s final round. They
shouldn’t be worried by a Welsh side that could only draw with Italy in Cardiff on
Saturday – that’s the same Wales
that beat Australia a few months ago. Like France, Ireland
has only lost one match, but England
at Twickenham should be expected to defeat them to finish off an
extraordinarily topsy turvy competition.

In Super 14, the wooden spoon was decided
by the Queensland Reds defeating the Western Force, or Queensland B
beating Queensland C. The
forwards were promisingly dominant while thumping the Cats in a match
confirmed NSW can look the goods as long as Matt Rogers is playing
well, while the Brumbies also rely completely on their five eighth,

For those of us
who find the Wallaby selection form guide the most fascinating aspect of the
Super 14, there was more good news than bad. Rogers’ form means there is an
alternative should Larkham be injured yet again and while Barnes is getting a
bit more experience, there’s pleasing depth at half back with Josh Valentine showing the Reds have two of the best three number 9s going round and there
were again signs that we will be able to set competitive scrums in France next

The bad news though was the weakness of the
ACT forwards. It was only the Brumbies’ outstanding defence that saved them – an
aspect of their game that is often overlooked although they have the comp’s
best defensive record. After five
rounds, the range of “points against” for the top four teams – Crusaders,
Hurricanes, Brumbies and Waratahs – is just 83 (Brumbies) to 86 (Hurricanes).
The test remains out there though when both the Australian teams play the top
Kiwis later in the competition.